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Different Types Of Ukulele: A Buyer's Guide

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Different Types Of Ukulele: A Buyer's Guide

Affordable and easy to learn instruments for all ages

The ukulele has slowly but surely eased its way into the eyes of the mainstream like no other instrument. Once seen as the symbol of either grass skirts or George Formby, the little guitar is now a firm favourite of players of all ages and skill levels.

For starters, it is one of the simplest instruments to pick up and play. There is a very slim learning curve, only four strings and a tiny body that doesn't require manhandling in the way a full acoustic guitar may do.

Indeed, more and more schools are choosing to teach their pupils ukulele over the traditional mandatory musical entry point, the recorder. Not only that but there are also different types of the ukulele to choose from too.

There are ukulele groups popping up all around the country. Ukulele covers of popular songs have flooded YouTube channels, and you know something has truly hit the mainstream when the purists come out bemoaning its popularity.

Quite simply, it's everywhere. So, with that in mind, we felt it was high time we shone the spotlight on one of the coolest instruments there is.

Anatomy Of The Ukulele

Maybe you're reading this thinking you want in and want to join the fun. Good news! It's easy and doesn't cost the earth. Let's take a look at a few different types of ukulele, what they're made from, and what you'll need to get started.

1. Ukulele Sizes

The most common ukulele sizes that you will come across are: 

  1. Soprano (21-inches)
  2. Concert (23-inches)
  3. Tenor (26-inches)
  4. Baritone (30-inches)

*These are approximate sizes and actual measurements may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer.

2. Tuning

First up, we should examine the instrument a bit and outline the things that give it its unique characteristics. At first glance, you can see that it is effectively a tiny guitar. It features the same body, neck and soundhole as a standard acoustic, but you'll notice it only has four strings.

Whereas a standard 6 string guitar will be tuned EADGBE, a ukulele is often standard tuned with a high G, then lower CEA.

The reason for this is that ukuleles employ something called 're-entrant tuning', which means the strings don't tune in the natural order of low to high. Some players do prefer to tune that top string to a more familiar low G, but those who don't find the higher pitch sound gives chords a nicer sparkle, in keeping with the happy vibe of the instrument.

It is worth noting that although Soprano, Concert and Tenor adhere to GCEA tuning, Baritone ukes go their own way with D-G-B-E, making it five half steps lower than the others.

3. String Composition

The strings themselves are usually made from nylon, like classical acoustics, which further adds to the ease at which non-players can become accustomed to shaping chords without developing callouses on their fingertips.

Be thankful for this too; traditionally, ukulele strings were constructed from 'catgut', which was formed from the intestines of various animals like sheep and goats. But not cats, confusingly.

4. Body Construction

The ukulele's body is constructed from wood, either from cheaper woods like ply in the entry-level models, through to specific tonewoods like koa in professional models.

The type of wood gives the resulting sound its character; at a beginner's level this isn't a major consideration but for recording artists, it can make a huge difference. The body and neck combined are usually a fraction of the size of a full-size acoustic guitar, yet the proportions will remain to scale.

Variations And Types Of Ukulele

As well as the common ukulele sizes and types listed above, there are variations like the banjolele (or banjo ukulele/ukulele banjo) and guitalele (guitar ukulele).

The banjolele, as you might imagine, is a small-scale banjo body featuring the same string configuration as a regular uke. It was created as a way of coaxing more volume from an unplugged ukulele yet doesn't mirror a standard banjo in terms of string layout or construction.

The guitalele is a halfway house between a guitar and a ukulele - I know, crazy - designed to stand around 1/4 the size of an acoustic.

Now that we've explained some of the different types of ukulele, let's check out some of the different options available to you.

1. Soprano Ukulele: Redwood S20E Electro-Acoustic Soprano Ukulele

  • Laminated Mahogany Body
  • 12-fret Composite Fingerboard
  • Composite Bridge
  • Natural Finish
  • Electro-Acoustic Ukulele with Preamp plus Volume and Tone Controls
  • Great for Beginners/Intermediate Players

Something for players of all skill levels, the highly popular Redwood S20E. This great little uke offers playability which far belies its price tag, making it a tasty proposition for anyone who fancies a dabble but doesn't want to commit just yet. A few sessions on the Redwood S20 will nicely usher you into the world of ukulele, while the laminated mahogany body is a step-up sound-wise from the woods used on the ultra-cheap models.

As if all that wasn't enough you the built-in preamp with volume and tone controls, pickup and output allow you to amplify the S20E when you need that boost. Whether you're recording at home, streaming online, performing on the stage, you can simply plug-in to your audio interface or amp and you're good to go!

2. Concert Ukulele: Adam Black "Rainbow" Concert Ukulele

  • Perfect beginner ukulele offers rounded timbre with depth and warmth
  • Laminated sapele body makes it an excellent travelling companion
  • Black walnut fingerboard & bridge offers impressive durability
  • Okoume neck provides solid support with dot inlays to guide your way
  • The laser-etched Rainbow design provides a breathtaking finish
  • Nylon-strung and ready to play straight-out-of-the-box

The Adam Black Concert Ukulele provides sublime playability at a price that allows anyone and everyone to get started along their music playing journey. Built using sustainable materials that offer outstanding durability, Adam Black go a step further than the rest to ensure this concert uke stands out. Utilising unique laser-etching technology, the eye-catching Rainbow finish is certain to make sure that you stand out on the stand.

3. Tenor Ukulele: Tanglewood Tiare Koa Electro-Acoustic Tenor Ukulele

  • Premium quality tenor ukulele that is perfect for stage and studio
  • Elegant koa body produces a sparkling timbre that shines
  • Single-cutaway body profile makes it easy to reach upper frets
  • Solid okoume neck establishes a confident playing support
  • Elegant hardwood fingerboard guarantees a consistent playing area
  • Tanglewood TEQ-TUT pickup translates acoustic timbre exquisitely
  • Ornate tiare soundhole rosette and matching headstock motif
  • Die-cast machine heads uphold tuning integrity dutifully
  • High grade Aquila Nylgut strings for a premium experience out of the box
  • Natural satin finish prevents unwanted stickiness or tackiness

Tanglewood has garnered a worthy rep for crafting sublime instruments at affordable prices, and their Tribal Spirit series ukes offer just that. Built using Koa to evoke the classic look and vibe of the ukulele's spiritual home, Hawaii, the Tribal Tiare TWT 17 E Tenor offers a gorgeous model that everyone from amateurs to pros will fall in love with.

Featuring carefully executed touches such as the single-cutaway for improved upper fret access and Tanglewood's TEQ-TUT pickup and preamp for easy gigging and recording, this delightful instrument not only sounds fantastic but plays superbly too.

4. Baritone Ukulele: Laka Baritone Ukulele

  • Solid Sapele Top with Sapele Back and Sides
  • Mahogany headstock with open gear machine heads
  • Satin finish looks stunning
  • Includes Laka carry case

The Laka Baritone Ukulele in Natural is a high-quality instrument that provides the deeper tonal offerings that one would expect from the largest of the Ukulele family, providing a tonality that is closer to that of an acoustic guitar.

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Pick Up & Play!

Whether you are just starting out on your musical journey or have significant playing experience under your belt, we at Dawsons Music & Sound want to encourage and inspire everyone to take positive action with their instrument aspirations.

If you have always fancied playing an instrument, getting into DJing, or advancing your knowledge on your chosen instrument, we have everything covered from instrument packs and accessories to blogs and instructional videos that provide everything needed to level up!

Click Pick Up & Play to get inspired!

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